Delta Air Lines, the second largest airline in the world, was forced to ground many of their planes on Monday, August 8th after the company’s computer system went down.  

The following day, Delta COO Gil West said, “… a critical power control module at our Technology Command Center malfunctioned, causing a surge to the transformer and a loss of power… power was restored quickly.”

So why didn’t that fix the situation?  West explained further:  “Critical systems and network equipment didn’t switch over to backups… and now we’re seeing instability in these systems.”

Delta travelers affected by the malfunction could be forgiven for using words that were rather significantly more colorful than “instability.” The six-hour shutdown resulted in over 2,000 flight cancelations.

This PR and customer service disaster afflicted what has been called “the best run airline” by no less than the Harvard Business School. Industry monitoring group ranks Delta ahead of United and American Airlines in ALL of its ranking categories.  

If it can happen to Delta, it can happen to you.

Many of us regard technology much like we think about utilities: a commodity that is (almost) always there. Outages are a real irritation at best; an outrage if service is denied to us for long.  

So a backup is surely important.  And indeed, Delta’s statement indicated they had a backup system– there were ‘just’ some problems switching over to it.  Interestingly, according to Forbes, Delta “did not immediately respond” to questions concerning the existence (or nonexistence) of multiple physical data centers to house the copies of their system.   

Questions aside, one thing is for certain:  something went wrong, really wrong.  It had to have been a tough week for the Delta brain trust in charge of protecting vital information. Their job is to ensure the availability of that data and its ability to drive business operations.  So much for the “backup system”.

It’s perhaps useful to talk about the  important differences between the terms ‘backup’ and ‘redundancy.’ To put is simply, a backup means a separate copy of your data– in a separate place– stored for safety.  Redundancy means identical data written simultaneously to two or more different places.  

The key difference?  Redundancy allows work to continue if one system fails.  Redundancy can prevent service outages, even in the face of disaster.  Redundancy done right means a complete and total system replica, available for immediate access and seamless transition.

Call it what you will, Delta didn’t have it.  “Anything less than a 100 percent service backup isn’t disaster recovery, it is disaster coping,” said Robert Cringley of BetaNews. In other words: if it isn’t a redundant system, it’s a disaster waiting to happen.

Enter data hosting and Cloud-based technology: these are becoming more affordable, and can be a real boon to any size business. With a global enterprise like Delta, they can be absolutely vital.  

The Cloud may not be enough.

Delta has embraced Cloud technology: some consider Delta’s database to be a kind of “private Cloud—but the Cloud alone may not be enough.  

Relying on Cloud storage to simply hold vital data can miss the business continuity mark. That’s because businesses need to think in terms of using the Cloud for redundancy— complete redundancy of all operations — not just as a place to keep a backup or two.  

If your system goes down (and goes down hard), how confident would your customers feel about doing business with you? How quickly could you get things up and running again? What would be lost because records are all located in the same building that gets flooded, or critical data hasn’t made it into the system at all because your last system backup was last year?

Before judging Delta, it might be a good time to run through your own disaster recovery plan.  And if you find it needs improving?  You’ll happily find that the cost of adding the Cloud storage and systems necessary to protect your business is lower than ever before.  

Protect Your Data

5i Solutions offers Cloud Document Management Solutions that ensure the important data you need is available for retrieval instantly.  Your data is simultaneously protected and stored in the 5i Cloud Vault, with encryption, network security, access logs, penetration testing, key management— you get total access control paired with total security.  

Cloud storage with 5i Solutions can be robust enough to ensure complete service redundancy. And 5i will tailor the solution to your current system and workflows.  

Your business need never miss a minute or lose a customer because of a data disaster.  5i Solutions will safeguard your data—and your business.

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